Few guns conjure up as much folklore and cliché as the shotgun. A longtime staple among those serious about home defense, it shares an equal-sized crowd of uncertain or fearful onlookers. Shotguns are loud, heavy and big. These three things have kept many people from adopting this venerable classic to defend their castle.
Shotguns are a solid choice for home protection for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost reason is stopping power. This term is tossed around a lot these days, but with a shotgun it has real meaning. The chance of a first- or second-round fight-stopping shot with shotgun ammunition is a reality. The baseline for stopping power is a round’s ability to penetrate a minimum of 12 inches into a target. This is the general standard used by the FBI. Using #1 buckshot, a shotgun can deliver 16 pellets at high velocity into an intruder. These pellets combined have a surface area of 1.13 square inches, which is the equivalent of shooting someone 12 to 15 times simultaneously with a .32 ACP or .380 ACP rounds. It is indeed a fight stopper. Simplicity of function is another reason that shotguns are a good choice for home defense. With even simple training, a shooter can easily and quickly bring a shotgun to bear on an intruder in a home. As a long gun, it is easier to aim and keep on target than a handgun. This, combined with some simple modifications, make the shotgun a formidable weapon in close quarters.
Along with its reputation as a fight stopper, the shotgun has also gained a level of mythology not seen with many other weapons. Some of these myths are simple exaggerations of the truth, while others are utter fabrications. Let’s look at the top four.
1) You don’t need to aim a shotgun. Just point it in the general direction of your target and it will hit it. While this is almost laughable, it is a commonly held belief in many circles. The shotgun is like any other firearm. In order for you to guarantee hits on target, you need to aim. Many a hunter and competition shooter can attest to this.
2) Use birdshot because it will strop an intruder but not over-penetrate dry wall. This is wrong on both counts. Birdshot does not carry enough energy to effectively be used as a self-defense load. Additionally, birdshot does have the capacity to penetrate drywall, much to the surprise of anyone on the other side.
3) Racking a shotgun is the international language for “get out.” Actually, it is the international sound of “my weapon was not loaded.” While some will argue the pros and cons of keeping a weapon loaded, it is undeniably faster to bring into action if it is already chambered.
4) You don’t need any training to run a shotgun. This is potentially the most dangerous myth of the lot. Any time you choose to keep a firearm as a home defense tool, you should seek professional training on its use. To the untrained, a shotgun can deliver substantial recoil and muzzle rise. This can lead to a severe dislike of this classic weapon and in turn lead to little or no practice time. Learn how to effectively shoot a shotgun and it will become an enjoyable and empowering event.
While out-of-the-box shotguns can serve the purpose of home defense adequately, a few modifications can elevate its effectiveness. One item I advocate on any home defense weapon is a light. You need to be able to confirm your target before unleashing lead down the hall. The tactical flashlight world is now huge and everyone makes something for everything. One of the best is SureFire. They manufacture a foregrip for most shotguns complete with a built-in flashlight. Combined with pressure switches, it is a very natural addition to the gun.
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Low-light sights are next on the list. As mentioned earlier, it is important to get the weapon aimed correctly to improve your chances of hitting your target. Statistics tell us that this type of conflict will happen in low light and that we need to be ready for it. Some of the best on the market come from Trijicon. Sold in a number of colors, these hearty sights are a solid addition to your shotgun.
The final way to make it better is to shorten it. Most major manufactures have a factory-built, short-barrel version of their tactical shotguns. You can also contract with a gunsmith to shorten your existing gun. It is important to note that a short-barrel shotgun falls under some very specific ATF regulations. You will need to verify that your state allows short barrels before you begin the long process of getting your short-barrel shotgun approved. While being a bit heavy on the paperwork side, the short-barrel shotgun offers improved handling and manipulation in close quarters.
As with all firearms, the first thing you should do is seek professional training. With that under your belt, you can begin to fine-tune your skills inside the home. A few solid tips, though, are worth looking at. First, do not “go hunting” in your home unless you have to. If you hear noises, get your weapon and position yourself with a clear shot at the doorway into your area. Call 911 and get help on the way. If possible, rest the shotgun on the bed without sacrificing your shot. This will make aiming easier and slow fatigue as the police make their way to you.
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Second, if you must move through your house, make sure that corners are clear before you move out around them. Prudent use of light is helpful when searching in low-light conditions. Once again, you need to be able to confirm your target. As a side note on the topic of light, I encourage you to use a handheld light for general searching and scanning. It can help avoid potentially catastrophic mistakes.
Third, keep the weapon as close to your body as possible when out and moving. In the event an intruder surprises you and grabs the gun, you have a better chance of retaining it. If the gun is too far away from your center, you could be easily disarmed and end up in a very bad situation.
The shotgun is a classic weapon that still serves a solid role today. Accessorized well and mixed with training, the scattergun can be the 12 gauge insurance policy you are looking for. As with all things, with knowledge comes power. This is even truer with the shotgun. With knowledge comes serious power.
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